Ess-a-Bagel

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For a city synonymous with bagels, living here you would think there’d be a lot more shops per capita. Even though bagel joints don’t flourish on every city block, there are still many places where you can find a classic NY bagel. Ess-A is just such a place.

A great place if your looking for the authentic thing. I like how they have the toppings, e.g. sesame seeds, loaded up on one side. This is something I didn’t think I would like originally, but it works. They also have interesting options like the pumpernickle everything in the photo.

Photo by angela n. via Flickr

Phayul

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Perched on the second floor, above the myriad storefronts that make up Little India in Jackson Heights, is Phayul. Hidden gem, It covers both criteria. I lived down the street from this local, and had no idea it was there. Clueless, maybe, but doesn’t it count for something that I finally made it? And more than once.

Off a side street, under a small awning, and up to the second floor. The décor is simple, there is lots of natural light, and an open kitchen. There is much on offer. And it probably wouldn’t qualify as Himalayan/Nepali if you couldn’t get momo’s. Chicken, beef, and potato either fried or steamed. I’ve sampled all, and they’re all great, but would have to say my favorite are the steamed potato. Enjoy them with the in house chili sauce, but just so you know, its essentially ground chili peppers and water, it packs a lot of heat.

Beyond the momo’s I’ve tried several other dishes here. I had a beef soup, and also a marinated beef dish with bell peppers. I’d say I liked the marinated beef, which I believe is Beef Shak Trak, more. It’s not on the menu at this location, but they had a menu from another location they have, and I ordered sauteed vegetables, which I found pleasing.

The other dish that I’ve tried here I enjoyed quite a bit. The Lhasa Fried Noodle is a noodle dish that is sort of reminiscent of lomein, at least the way it looks. This isn’t the type of fried noodle you’ll find at your neighborhood Chinese food outpost though. The noodles are fresh and chewy and make for a delightful bite. For sure Phayul is the fly dopeness.

Red Top Mountain Restaurant

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Sunday’s are great days for dim sum. The sabbath, and food is religion after all. Headed to flushing for dim sum we collectively decided to try a new place, Red Top Mountain Restaurant. On entering RTMR you’ll be asked what type of tea you would like. This is nice, as you will typically get the same type of tea in most Chinese restaurants, which according to google is often a blend of popular teas. We ordered a fragrant tea, made of whole flowers. It was excellent, and accompanied the small dishes nicely.

We ordered right away as the first cart approached. I was in luck, a native speaker in with us, ordering was no trouble. The first round of dishes included two tripe plates, and shrimp shumai. Out of the three, the tripe marinated in some type of red pepper sauce was my favorite. I personally am not a huge fan of tripe, texture and preparation often the deterrent. I can say this is the best I’ve had it, and would go a step further and say you should try theirs.

As the carts circled we watched, and waited for our next selection. We eventually decided on pork buns, a classic, and these taro root cubes. Coming off a recent visit to Waikiki I wanted to try these, as taro root is featured heavily in Hawaiian cuisine. This was good, but the starchy components of this root vegetable was evident. Interestingly, there were other dishes with taro root on offer. I’m not sure if it was because they happened across a sale at the grocer, or its a staple of their restaurant, but I’m all for it.

More carts roll by, egg tarts, check. Can we have an order of congee, why not. Pigs feat stewed with too much ginger, we’ll take some. Finally, we couldn’t resist and ordered these buns that looked like panda bears. They had a peanut butter-esque filling, not bad, . Really enjoyed the experience here, and the ability to choose your tea only added to it.

Woodside Cafe

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Siting near a precipice along the Brooklyn Queens Expressway seems a fitting place for a Nepalese restaurant, culturally acclimated to such sheer drops. I had stumbled upon this place many months ago and was transfixed when I gazed at the crowded space, and noticed the disconnect between the sign and what was on patrons plates. I bookmarked it in my yelp app and went back to my urban exploration.

However accidental my first encounter with Woodside Cafe was, walking through the door a month or two later was decidedly deliberate. I was in my apartment when my friend tapped me on the shoulder and held up the dining section of the New York Times. “We should go here” she said. I looked at the article, by Ligaya Mishan, and to my surprise and amusement it was about the very spot I had puzzled over. It was settled, I would go.

Food here is a textural experience. What one might feel when staring up at the Himilayas, but in this case more stomach, less eyes. Woodside Cafe predominantly serves traditional Nepali fare, with the addition of some fusion dishes. Signage, reading “pasta, pizza…” , suggests casual Italian. Though I did not see either option, it could be from a prior life. However, if so, its a good fit when taking into account the chefs execution of dishes with roots in both locals.

We based our order heavily on the New York Times article, and definitely ordered more than we were able to put away. To start we had the woh, a cake of lentils which you can choose to top with egg or meat. We decided to try it with beef, sauteed. We also had the Musya Palu, a simple snack food of soybeans roasted in mustard oil. This was the foray the meal took to the crunchier side of the spectrum, which I enjoyed.

For the main course we decided to share two dishes. We had the Momos in a pink cream sauce, Italian inspired momos. This is a very pleasant and successful dish, definitely lives up to its promising name. I would strongly recommend this. The second dish we ordered was a traditional Nepali dish, Chula Baji. Here too you are given the choice of chicken or beef, and we chose the sauteed beef. The beef in this dish is almost identical to the beef that came atop the woh. For this reason you might want to opt for chicken. The star of this dish though is the beaten rice. I’ve never had beaten rice before and was happy to discover it. For the those, like me, who aren’t in the know, beaten rice is rice that has been flattened. I thought it was raw, but after doing some research it seems that it is first roasted, then flattened. How its flattened here I won’t venture to guess. Think the puffed rice, but instead of expanding, imploding. The beaten rice is great, and provides a nice textural contrast when mixed with the other elements on the plate. This won’t be my last visit.

Kababish

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Kababish is a great takeout place, and easy on the wallet. I’ve been on many occasions, but just recently stopped over to try out the gola kebab. It was good, but I was expecting it to be spicier. I usually get their chicken kebabs, and they’re just as spicy. They are a good deal less expensive too. I order two of these and nan, it’s a giant piece, see above. Nan comes in your typical varieties, but they also have a sesame one that’s nice.  I’ve sampled some of the other items, but this is my go to. Everything else looks good though.

It gets busy around 7pm, you’d be better off going earlier.

Farid Kebab

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This is my favorite food cart in Astoria, in a crowded great place for street food. Halal half chicken, chicken and beef kababs, cooked year round over charcoal. Absolutely delicious, and though the other reviewer felt the platters weren’t a good value, I have to say I disagree. Platters are amazing, if you get the half chicken, it comes with two soups typically(depending on supply) and a salad. Its served over two types of rice, and though I usually get this platter for myself, the meal could easily be shared between two people. At ten bucks, well worth it. This is my favorite dish here, though the kabab sandwiches are great, reasonably priced, and served on toasted bread with the dough pulled out.

A couple of tips here, Sundays and dinner time hours you’ll find yourself waiting for a long time, so be prepared to wait. It takes at least ten minutes even when there isn’t a long wait. Though it says they deliver, I don’t think that they do. I think they’re overwhelmed with orders, and won’t answer the number listed. I’ve tried, on several occasions, to call ahead for pickup without any luck. The last thing would mention is to ask for tahini. They used to only serve tahini and hot sause, but with the popularity of the ubiquitous white sauce, think they caved because everyone asks for it.

Really great charcoal grilled food here.

Fu Run

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I recently went out to Fu Run on a day off from work. I had wanted to try these lamb ribs I saw on the food network. Though this wasn’t the exact place I saw on the tube, you know “Queens borough be the back drop” and this place got pretty good reviews. So there I was, sitting across from the Bland Houses (a housing project in flushing) flipping through the Fu Run Menu.

Fu Run has a large menu, and a lot of offerings, I was surprised. Who knew you could order jelly fish so many ways. Beyond the less mainstream items, they have some more generic dishes, chicken and beef variations. We had come for the lamb ribs, one order of which you’ll find is plenty of food for two people, so we ordered these. These are really good, and I would definitely get them if you come. As you can see in the photo they have dry spices on the top. Piled high spices and fennel seeds pair perfectly with the lamb making happy patrons. These are really rich, so I would suggest getting a cola to wash them down. The only other item we ordered was a pancake filled with beef, fried, also good.

I enjoyed the food tremendously, or whatever. I would mention that the service was poor, it was the end of the lunch shift and I always cut wait staff slack, because I’ve been there. However, if your of some noble lineage and aren’t used to being ignored, I recommend staying home at the palace.

Fette Sau

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Stumbled upon this BBQ mecca by accident on a trip to Bk. Definitely glad I did, it truly is amazing. Its packed all year round so be prepared to wait about 15|20 minutes in line. There isn’t a wait staff, just a counter where they weigh stuff out, I like this.

I suggest going when its warm out, because more seating opens up outside, and who doesn’t like beer and BBQ in the sun. One tip I have, besides gorging yourself with the great slow cooked meat items, is to get the burnt ends baked beans. I’ll go on record saying these are the best beans I’ve ever tasted. They are a must try item.

Talde

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I’ve been by Talde twice. The first time I stopped by was after watching a Timescast about dumpling places in NY. After seeing the pretzel dumplings they’re pumping out, I knew I would have to go and check this place out. It just so happened that I ended up cat sitting in the same neighborhood a few weeks later, so I stopped over for some take out.

You have to try these dumplings, they’re outstanding. Basically next time you want dumplings, make the bee line for their front door, bzzz bzzz.

Talde really brings it, and I would say they’re certainly king in the Asian fusion area. The dumplings are a must have app, but on my first visit I also got the Hawaiian sliders which you’ll also find pleasing to the palate.

When I visited most recently, I went for dinner. They’re not open before five most days, and we went on a Friday. It would be best if you booked reservations beforehand, otherwise its quite a long wait. We ended up sitting at the chefs table, a counter next to the kitchen. It was cool, but I would rather have been seated at a regular table, and you will too.

We split the Soba noodle dish and the pork shoulder entree. The smoked pork shoulder was excellent, real tender. As far as the Soba noodle dish, I would try something different next time. They’re are a bunch of interesting noodle choices, and it was daunting decision. I think I would go with the Pad Thai next trip, looks and sounds awesome The last thing I would mention is that we got the banana leaf sticky rice, it was good, next time I’ll reach for the everything roti though. Add in a beer in the mix and you’ll be set.

Basically, go here.

Photo by Wally Gobetz Via Flickr

Sake Bar Decibel

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I hadn’t been to this bar in years until a friend took me here the other day. This place is really awesome, the perfect spot for some sake after dark. Blink and you’ll miss it, as there is no sign, and its in the basement of a building on 9th street. Once inside you’ll really feel like your in a true NY bar. Graffiti covers the wall from floor to ceiling, don’t be shy if you want to break out your Molotow 420PP Mini Paint Marker and represent. Definitely more names on the wall then four years prior.

Beyond the graf, you have traditional Japanese decor. It makes for a nice East meats West, Tokyo|NY Mash up. I’ve never had the food, but have sampled the many sake and shochus on offer. The beverage list is extensive. When I went the other day we had an unfiltered sake, which I haven’t had before. I liked it, unfiltered means that they don’t filter out the rice, so you get bits of rice in your glass. good for a date or just kicking back with old friends.

Photo by Kuang Chen via Flickr

Manhattan Japanese Bar